CANAL FULTON, Ohio (AP) - Dean Ziegler sits under a shady tree along the canal at Heritage Park, focusing on a new, unique design by striking away at a flint rock to shape the latest arrowhead of thousands he’s constructed.
Ziegler, of Orrville, wasn’t sure if his work is more of a hobby, or if the hobby is more of a job. He looked up while working on his latest creation and said: “both.”
However, Ziegler said he appreciates the patience and discipline of the art, which is known as flint knapping.
“You get joy out of creating, by taking an old, ugly rock and turning it into something special,” he said. “It’s a good feeling.”
The pleasure of designing isn’t all that brings Ziegler to the canal-area park. He said he enjoys meeting people as he works his craft - many inquire about flint knapping and have never seen it performed live.
“I get a lot of people who stop by talking and taking a look,” Ziegler said. “Everybody has a story to tell about an arrowhead they found one time on a farm, or some sort of (Native American) artifact.”
Ziegler also takes his talent to Portage Lakes and along riverbanks of the Ohio and Licking rivers. He said he loves spending time outdoors near the water and wildlife.
As a youth, Ziegler said he and a friend, Rod Kauffman, a student knapper, would scavenge cornfields and farmland in search of arrowheads. That’s how Ziegler got the knapping bug, adding that his interest in Native American artifacts dates back at least 50 years.
For more than 11 years, Ziegler has been an experienced arrowhead maker. He noted the craft takes years to master - learning how to strike flint with the right speed and position.
“You break thousands of dollars worth of rock to get there, but eventually you do,” Ziegler said.
Throughout his time as a knapper, Ziegler said he’s created thousands of arrowheads. A single carving can take as little as an hour for a smaller sized piece or as much as a day for a creation of 7 inches or more.
So far this year, Ziegler has finished more than 600 arrowheads. Selling the items is a common practice, he said, noting that cost for a handmade item starts at about $50 and can go into the thousands.
There are about 2,500 people nationwide who regularly practice the art of knapping and probably about two dozen of them are in Ohio, Ziegler said.
He’s also taught a few people on the art of shaping arrowheads over the years, including Kauffman, who’s been practicing the craft for approximately a year.
“I’ve had a hand in getting several guys started,” Ziegler said.
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